The 2022 Belmont Stakes turns out to offer the 80-1 Kentucky Derby victor Rich Strike more than an ordinary task in trying to prove that he’s not “just” a one-off longshot Johnny-come-lately to his class, although he filled that role delightfully May 4 at Churchill, his favorite track. Stalker Mo Donegal is waiting for him at Belmont, as is Preakness show horse Creative Minister and the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Ethereal Road. Not least, the fetchingly named We the People has been turning in some blistering works, most notably on June 4 at Belmont, where the track was abuzz after seeing him turn in a snappy four-furlong breeze under his own trainer, Rodolphe Brisset, at 47.41. Nice turn of foot. It’s thought We the People will be out front and tough to rope in.
It’s well known that Rich Strike loves Louisville and Churchill Downs. His trainer Eric Reed speaks delightedly about how his athlete’s chest “puffs out” when disembarks his trailer at Churchill. The colt knows where he is, and likes it, when he’s at Churchill. But the Belmont is run on an island in the middle of Long Island Sound 700-plus miles east of Louisville, and the track is called “Big Sandy” for a two reasons. First, the alluvial plain of Long Island carries many millennia of sand in its soil, and that means the Belmont track surface yields a deeper, heavier footing for the 1200-pound athletes. Bottom line, there just is no flying “over” the Belmont track. Second, the track is the longest in America, which greatly increases the length of the turns. Not least, at a mile-and-a-half, the Belmont Stakes is the longest horse race any of these three-year-olds have ever faced and is the longest that many of them will ever face.
To help us work through what we can call the Belmont effect on the 2022 Belmont Stakes field, we’ll call in our trusted Kentucky ally and analyst, the Bluegrass Wise Man, a horseman and owner who has been so generous with his horse sense in Triple Crown seasons past. But before that, the results of the June 7 post position draw, and the morning line.
(Post Position, Horse, Morning line)
- We the People, 2-1
- Skippylongstocking, 20-1
- Nest, 8-1
- Rich Strike, 7-2
- Creative Minister, 6-1
- Mo Donegal, 5-2
- Golden Glider, 20-1
- Barber Road, 10-1
(Source: NYRA, June 1 2022)
Eric Reed, the trainer of now third-favorite Derby winner Rich Strike, breaking from the four hole, had this to say after the draw: “He’s done real good, training better every day. I think his energy level higher now and he’s a little more confident.”